Passages

We just returned from a family vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, staying in a cabin at a conference center owned by the organization for which I work. The trip itself was kind of a passage, back into winter, or the very beginnings of spring. The bay on which the cabin is located is still completely frozen and snow still covered many areas although we were told that two feet of snow had thawed in the four days before our arrival. If you think we’ve had it bad this winter, folks in the U.P. have most of us beat! And after several warm days, we had one more blast of winter, shared by much of the Midwest as 2-3 inches of new snow fell. Temperatures were at 16 degrees the morning we left!

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This trip was a kind of journey into the past in some ways that reminded us of the passage of time, and the many rich memories that have filled those years. This began when we paged through the guestbook in the cabin, which we have stayed in as a family four other times. One of our entries was from June of 1985, and we remarked on this being our son’s first visit to this conference center at a month and a half old. Now, it is nearly twenty nine years later, and it was fun for his wife for whom this was a first visit, to read this entry and to realize some of the family history wrapped up in this place.

As we showed our daughter-in-law around, memories unbidden returned of programs I had led or participated in, in just about every room. Seeing a recently built lounge area named after the founder of our organization in the US, I was reminded of hearing him speak at this site in 1977 during my Orientation of New Staff. Walking into another room in the same building I remembered a crazy and delightful time of suddenly assuming the direction of a program I was attending for the first time when the director was ill. It was a scramble and yet God met us in wonderful ways as we improvised and stayed maybe a half-step ahead of the students.

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I looked out on the frozen bay from some of the same spots where I sat enjoying the summer sun and spending personal times in prayer, reflection, and reading at a student leadership training program I was attending in July and August of 1974, my first visit to this site. I remembered a TV being brought into the meeting house so we could watch the resignation of President Nixon at the end of Watergate. And I thought, could nearly 40 years have passed so quickly?

Indeed they have, and yet as I thought of all this, my mood was not so much wistful as thankful. I mention in the “About ” page to this blog of how I live at the intersection of the love of learning and the love of God. So much of my passion for these was cultivated in this place. So much of life over the past 40 years has involved sharing with successive generations of students and faculty at a number of universities as well as at programs at this site how these two things walk hand in hand and how loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39) is not only the greatest of the commands but central to a life well-lived.

How well-lived my own life has been is ultimately a matter for God to judge. But as I look at things so far, I have to say that my own sense is one of having no regrets and great thankfulness. We’ve shared as a family in so many of these ventures. It was rich to share our memories together, as well as make new ones, like evenings in the cabin playing hearts or Scrabble and laughing at the turns of the game, usually against me–I didn’t win even once!

As we departed, both we, and our son and daughter-in-law left new entries in the guestbook. While none of us knows what the future holds, perhaps it will be that at some future date, we and/or they will mark yet further passages of time and hopefully have new and rich memories to share.

Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12, NIV)

 

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